Search the BSCCoC Website
Home Who We
Are
President &
Executive
Membership
Swag
Members Current
Events
Past
Events
Club
Chapters
Marques Club & Forum
Links
History Finds
March 31st 2012
Vauxhall PA Cresta: Jukebox on Wheels

Like many car enthusiasts, I began my lifelong passion at a young age by perusing hand-me-down automotive magazines. When I was nearing my 14th birthday and earning my own spending coin, I began haunting an old-school magazine store, of the kind you just don't see anymore. Recognizing a loyal customer with limited spending money, the proprietor on occasion would give me old issues that had been stripped of their covers and were to be destroyed. It was thus that I received my first copy of the long-defunct English title Popular Classics. Featured that month was the subject of this article, the Vauxhall PA Cresta.

Until that point I'd mainly been exposed to higher end exotic Britmobiles of the type featured in the ubiquitous Thoroughbred and Classic Cars. This chance encounter opened a whole new world of workaday English saloons that, unusually for a younger teen, I found infinitely more interesting than the world of Jaguars and Astons. In that initial issue the highlight story was one of Nick Larkin taking a Vauxhall PA Cresta out for a drive around Wales and an accompanying buyer's reference.

The featured car absolutely blew me away! Pink and white with the chrome and fins, to me it was everything I liked about American classics, but wrapped in the panache of a British cruiser. I vowed then and there to have one of my own.

Fast forward 27 years, and I finally had the resources to own one of Luton's finest. Realizing that dream was another matter. I had no idea whether or not any had been imported; many years of trolling the Auto Trader had resulted in no sightings, Ebay had been no better. I had also been searching Kijiji as well, but had only turned up the usual Envoys and one early Velox.

Then late one night, my luck had turned! A 1958 Cresta, and in pink and white, just like the car that had fascinated me all these years. One blurry photo, and a brief description as "mostly complete, project" had me hooked. The price? A mere $200, and it was only an hour away!

Up at dawn the next day hooking up my trailer, I managed to hold my composure before calling the vendor at 6:55 AM. He was surprised at my enthusiasm, and was less happy about being roused so early on a Saturday. However, he agreed to meet me later that morning.

Arriving with cash in hand and trailer in tow, I was brought to earth somewhat when I viewed my heart's desire. The rust suggested that perhaps the little car had been stored in a salt mine, or perhaps recovered from a shipwreck. Seeing me waver, the vendor offered to throw in, for the same price, a 1956 Studebaker. Done deal!





Over the course of several weeks, it became apparent what a project it would be. All four wheels were locked solid, the engine seized, and the passenger compartment floors and rockers were but a memory. The trunk was no better; I popped the lid by pulling out the remains of the floor by hand and entering from underneath.



My long-suffering wife, having been through this just a few years earlier with my Standard Vanguard project, just sighed and walked away shaking her head. I had just taken and introductory welding course and was confident that with time, I could somehow make something from the wreck.

Several weeks later trolling Kijiji, once again my good fortune struck. A 1962 Velox down in the south of the province! Speaking to the vendor, he described it as solid, but that someone had chopped the top with a mind to making a custom sometime prior to his ownership. He was moving out of province and needed it moved very soon.

Once again embarking on a roadtrip with my trusty trailer, I arrived to find the car much as described. The car was comprehensively stripped of all chrome, but I was assured it was all present. Unlike my first car, the floors exhibited only several localized areas of rust, the rockers were rock solid, and the trunk was like new, right down to the original unused Dunlop spare in the trunk. A deal was made for the same price as the first, and I was on the road again.



After cleaning out all the loose parts and doing an inventory, it was clear that much of the chrome was from an entirely different car, and that the instrument panel was missing. On the positive side, the bumpers were excellent, and the engine was free and turning.



Needing to boost my morale, I began to tinker with the engine. I put in some fresh oil and antifreeze, then cleaned the points and plugs. Squirting some gas into the carb resulted in a positive sputter, and I quickly jerry-rigged a temporary gas tank from an old Volvo washer fluid resevoir. Wanting to capture the momentous occasion on video, I waited until my wife came home with her smartphone. Jumping the solenoid produced a steady whirr, then she erupted to life! Lots of smoke out of the rusted exhaust, but she idled smooth and sounded strong. Overcome by the moment, I jumped into the car and took her for an impromptu spin to the end of the driveway, which just about ended badly when I realized she had no brakes and narrowly missed hitting a deep ditch.

So, what to do now? Well, I'd always liked the look of the earlier car, with the rectangular grille, three window rear, and tailfin lights. Given the missing parts on the '62 (to say nothing of the roof), I decided the best approach was to combine the best bits of both cars. The roof and grille off of the '58, using the good bones of the '62. The dash would be a little more problematic, but with some time I feel it could be switched as well.

Finally, the third stroke of luck. Yes, you guessed it, another Cresta, this one a '59. The gentleman had been in touch with the seller of my original '58, who passed along my number. Quite rusty again, but featuring an absolutely perfect hood, and arrow straight doors with the deluxe trim around the window frames. An added bonus after popping the trunk was a complete set of factory tools, as well as keys for the ignition, and a bunch of spares in boxes including several fuel pumps, door handles, and two rearview mirrors.





Not having a heated garage, I spent my winter accumulating more spare parts, including a complete set of factory manuals, hubcaps, some suspension bits, brake shoes, and the like. With spring, I've begun to practice my welding, so that when I take my holidays, I can use the time beginning to cut and weld the various components. Funny how that with the rarity of these cars that I would stumble across three of them within an eight week span, and now have seen no others since! I suspect that the three grouped in my yard are probably the most to be found in one place since they were new. I'm looking forward to tucking into my project, and I will post updates here as progress is made.

Doug Frechette




You are the st
nd
rd
th
Person to visit since 15 Aug 2011
































Home Who We
Are
President &
Executive
Membership
Swag
Members Current
Events
Past
Events
Club
Chapters
Marques Club & Forum
Links
History Finds